When you have two teams that have played before and went to overtime, that’s the recipe for a great game and that’s what’s in store for CIF Open Division state final between No. 1 Archbishop Mitty and No. 2 Clovis West. Still, we have to pick a winner and we do. In the D1 state final, McClatchy may enjoy some home cooking but doesn’t have a main dish like Windward.
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(All comments, predicted final scores done with utmost respect to all participants, coaches. All games played at Golden 1 Center.)
State No. 1 Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 28-2 vs. No. 2 Clovis West (Fresno) 33-2, Saturday, 6 pm
Unlike last year when there was a shakeup in the playoffs after national No. 1 Stockton St. Mary’s was upset, there were no real surprises in this year’s CIF Open Northern and Southern Regionals.
The result is that the two teams that have been No. 1 and No. 2 since the first in-season state rankings, Archbishop Mitty and Clovis West, will square off at the Golden 1 Center on Saturday evening in the fifth Open Division state championship since the CIF began Open competition in 2013.
Computer rankings can be off but the MaxPreps wires and circuits have this as a match-up of national No. 1 Mitty and No. 2 Clovis West, while the circuitry at USA Today has it reversed. Respected analyst Clay Kallam doesn’t agree with the computers and he has Mitty No. 5 and Clovis West No. 7 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 which is likely about right. Either way you twist it, this is a huge matchup of nationally ranked teams that went to overtime before Mitty pulled out a 76-75 win in the title game of the Iolani Classic in early December in Hawaii.
To show just how hard it is to win an Open Division title, the four previous winners were all exceptional teams that have been perennially tough, but no one has won more than once and this year’s two teams have never been in the Open title game before, meaning 2107 will crown another new champion.
Mitty head coach Sue Phillips has won six CIF state titles with one in Division I in 1999 when the team went 31-0 and Phillips was the State Coach of the Year and Mitty was the State Team of the Year. Her first title was in 1995 in Division III with the other four in Division II in 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2015. If Phillips can add an Open Division crown to her sparkling resume, which includes being a USA National Team two-time Gold Medal winning coach, it will be her 639th career coaching win.
Throughout the playoffs, it’s been the combination of St. Mary’s College-bound Madeline Holland and Haley Jones, the No. 11 player (and No. 5 wing) in the nation and the only California girl on the Top 25 player rankings for the Class of 2019 compiled by ESPNW analyst Dan Olson.
In the semis and regional title games it was that duo that led the way. Against St. Mary’s, in a 78-61 victory, both Holland (24 points and 10 rebounds with six assists) and Jones (12 points and 10 rebounds with four assists) had double-doubles, and they both shined against Newman in the Northern Regional championship 78-54 victory after Holland had 20 points and nine rebounds while Jones finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
While Holland and Jones do the consistent heavy lifting, others will need to continue playing well if the Monarchs are to duplicate the win over Clovis West in Hawaii.
The guard play and defense of junior Karisma Ortiz has been raised to another level in the playoffs. Against Newman Ortiz’s 6-foot frame and length was a problem as she played lockdown defense, and although she only had eight points, she had five rebounds, six assists and three steals. Senior guard Heleyna Hill has accepted her role as a defender and is doing the job although she was in foul trouble against Newman. Senior Danielle Guglielmo came off the bench to make 4-of-7 three-pointers against Newman to finish with 14 points, and Phillips will need some outside shooting against Clovis West. Junior 6-foot-2 post Nicole Blakes also came off the bench against Newman for a solid 15-minute effort in which she made all five of her shots and finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
Cardinal Newman was no Clovis West but if Mitty can shoot close to the overall 53.1-percent and 43.5-percent from outside the arc like it did against Newman, the Monarchs will be looking good on the scoreboard.
“Clovis West attacked the basket against Poly and we’ve got to have them finish some tough contested shots,” Phillips said. “We want to control the tempo and it’s also important we take care of the ball. With their pressure we can’t have live ball turnovers they turn into easy baskets.”
Although neither Clovis West, the CIF Central Section or Golden Eagles head coach Craig Campbell have ever won a California state basketball championship (Clovis West boys lost 2006 and in 2001 to Concord De La Salle with the 2001 second-place finish later vacated), Campbell has, and although he can’t match Phillips and her six titles, his 2001 Reno (Nevada) team won the Nevada large school state championship.
Campbell, who is in his 12th season at Clovis West, spent 11 years at the Reno helm (240-95 record with eight league, five section and one state title) before coming to California where he has had a solid program that never quite got over the hump until last Saturday when the Golden Eagles won a first-ever Southern Regional championship after avenging a 68-63 to Long Beach Poly in the 2010 SoCal Division I title game with a 53-44 victory last Saturday.
In a physical game that saw Clovis West make 28-of-35 free-throws to only 3-of-11 for Poly, it was close throughout with the Golden Eagles only leading 35-33 going into the fourth quarter. One could probably say Campbell did a better job of directing his defense without fouling and his girls were 17-of-20 from the line in the second half to 0-for-2 for the Jackrabbits.
Mitty likely will present more problems for Campbell to deal with defensively and his girls will have to score more than 53 points to win on Saturday.
Against Poly, UC-Santa Barbara-bound Sarah Bates had 10 points but was only 1-of-7 from the field. San Jose State-committed Megan Anderson also had 10 points but she and Bates were the only double-figure scorers, although Arizona State-bound Bre’yanna Sanders did have 12 rebounds. Others like Boise State-bound Tess Amundsen (nine points), San Jose State-committed Danae Marquez (six points), the coach’s daughter and sophomore Madison Campbell (eight points), will need to pick up the pace against Mitty.
Of the four three-year starters for the Golden Eagles — Anderson, Bates, Marquez and Sanders — you can throw a blanket around them trying to determine which of them to choose highest for all-state, all-section, etc. If all four were quadruple players of the year by the Fresno Bee it might look goofy but would not be wrong.
Against Poly, the Golden Eagles may have shot a lot of free throws but they were only 11-of-35 overall shooting and 3-of-14 from three-point range, plus they only had three assisted baskets, and those are factors that likely will have to change for Clovis West to enter the Promised Land.
So what’s the difference between now and in Hawaii when the two teams met last year?
“You’re talking about three-and-a-half months and day three of a tournament in a different time zone,” was the response of Campbell about the main difference.
“Just like Mitty, we have everyone cemented in their roles and had time to prepare and implement schemes,” Campbell continued. “We have a more complete arsenal.”
At the press conference after winning the Open NorCals, Phillips stated the obvious in saying her team wasn’t “unbeatable” but “pretty tough,” but she still realizes something else that’s pretty apparent.
“Clovis West is so good we’re going to have to play outstanding defense, control the boards and be at extreme offensive efficiency,” Phillips said.
Campbell’s girls are ready after beating teams with three McDonald’s All-Americans, Kianna Smith of Fullerton Troy, Destiny Littleton of La Jolla Bishop’s and Ayanna Clark of Long Beach Poly.
“The girls are very excited to number one, play for a state championship, and number two, for all they’ve accomplished,” Campbell remarked. “How many teams have had to beat three McDonald’s All-Americans to reach a state final?”
The answer is none but that doesn’t matter against Mitty. The real answer is are there still holes in the Mitty arsenal?
“That’s for Craig Campbell to figure out,” said Phillips with a grin in the press conference after the NorCal Open win.
All the questions will be answered this Saturday in Sacramento.
Prediction: Archbishop Mitty is a 69-65 winner and if it goes to overtime like it very well could make it 74-71 Monarchs. No offense to Clovis West since its winning wouldn’t be an upset but the way we see it the game will be close but we predict Phillips and her girls will prevail.
State No. 15 Windward (Los Angeles) 29-4 vs. McClatchy (Sacramento) 31-4, Friday 6 pm
When Windward was upset by Lake Elsinore Lakeside in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs, that knocked the Wildcats out of the SoCal Regional Open picture and into the Southern Regional Division I mix as a favorite and subsequently received the top seed.
Because Windward was not in the Open Division, some of the chit-chatting pundits and prognosticators on the message boards that purport to be self-proclaimed experts went so far as to surmise that Windward “threw” the game to avoid the Open Division.
How absurd. Head coach Vanessa Nygaard is a Stanford disciple of Tara VanDerveer and one of the top coaches in Southern California and it would be blasphemous to even imagine her integrity would contemplate not trying to win a game at all costs.
The bottom line is Windward is the top one-girl team still alive in the playoffs and a one-girl team is susceptible to losing if that superstar can’t quite carry the entire load.
No offense to the rest of Nygaard’s Wildcats girls but they’re a young squad and if reigning State Freshman of the Year Charisma Osborne is not on they can be beaten by Open Division level teams, however McClatchy is not at that level and may not even be at the level of a Ventura team that gave up 35 points to Osborne in the 61-43 Southern Regional Division I title game.
“She can do it all and has hit some amazing shots this season to keep us alive,” was Nygaard’s assessment of her star sophomore.
Others Nygaard is looking to for productivity are sophomore wing Kaiyah Corona, junior point guard Sela Kay, who Nygaard says rarely misses from the free-throw line and comes into the game at 86 percent, and junior power forward Myrrah Joseph, who had a game-high nine rebounds against Ventura before fouling out.
Having seen McClatchy twice this season and knowing how Osborne will match up could present some major problems for the Northern Regional champions.
Windward will look to even its record at 2-2 in state title games. Windward won the Division IV title in 2011, lost it in its initial appearance in 2006, and lost the inaugural Open game in 2013.
McClatchy will have the advantage of having the home crowd with them as the school is only about two miles from the Golden 1 Center so there should be a whole slew of Lions fans there, and the local girls will likely need the support.
First-year head coach but longtime boys coach Jeff Ota has done a remarkable job in getting McClatchy to a 30-win season that included winning the consolation bracket of the Diamond Division of the West Coast Jamboree.
Utah-bound Jordan Cruz will need to be on, and even though she only had eight points in the McClatchy 46-34 win over El Dorado Hills Oak Ridge in the NorCal D1 title game, she helped take over down the stretch to close out the game. Guard Courtesy Clark had 12 points and 12 rebounds in the NorCal championship, and she and junior Richelle Turney (12 points) and sophomore Kamryn Hall (nine points, five rebounds, four assists) will all need to play well and have a part in shutting down Osborne.
The biggest question in this game is how will a still young Osborne do on the big stage and in front of a hostile crowd?
Prediction: Windward 61, McClatchy 56.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbendlmost